Life is Strange is a pretty incredible episodic series, each episode is wrapped in mystery and features multiple choices that impact the story going forward. Arguably I could say that choices made in this game actually matter and are what defines the game, when we look at Telltale’s works the choices made are simply there as an illusion, the choices in Life is Strange on the other hand hold weight and really impact the story as a whole. Of course there is one thing that many complain about when it comes to this game and it is the choice system, many think that this takes away some of the weight of choices but in truth it redefined the way these type of episodic games play.
Choice matters and sometimes making a bad one can be costly to yourself or those around you, something as silly as a bad choice in words can cause tragic and truly devastating events. The thing is when these happen we don’t know how they will affect us later on, how can we know that telling the truth at one point can cause further problems down the track. People argue that having the power to undo a choice and make a new one undermines a decision, but in truth does it really?
No matter how you look at it every choice made will come with additional effects both positive and negative, and these effects will take place no matter what so how does rewinding time ruin anything. Having the power to simple undo one choice and make another raises the stakes when you think about it, you can see all possible choices that you can make in that moment and decide based on your own thoughts. But following this you don’t know what other problems will spiral from your choice that you made in the first episode when you get to the third.
You cannot tell what is going to happen so having the power to rewind time does not take away anything especially when you consider the way the system is used. If the game allowed you to go back whenever you wanted to and undo a previous choice then this would really destroy the ability and lose impact, but your choices are set in stone pretty quickly and so you can’t just fix something when you are unhappy, you have to deal with issues that follow suit.
Then it is because of this power and the rippling choice effects that make things more interesting, the weight of your choices when you make them is tough even with the power but when you don’t have that power you feel it. These moments show that even with the ability to undo a choice before that the weight is no more different you still have to think hard, but then when you are suddenly powerless the choice is just as strong but perhaps even more tense. The reason for this is because your prior choices were already hard even with the ability so the rare moment without it things become tougher and more real, a true life or death situation makes you wish for at least one more chance but you feel worse when you fail.
In terms of other games like Life is Strange that follow a similar style in the episodic styling there is a lot of opportunity for this to be an important feature for these type of games. I think with Life is Strange choices mattered more because I could see all options so I could make an informed decision, and with this power there was room for a story where choices defined what happened going forward. There was no illusion in terms of choices, everyone you were forced to make mattered to the greater story and I never worried about the rewind mechanic messing with this, in fact it reinforced the choices and gave more room for a more comprehensive story.
This is why the games rewind mechanic actually brings forward a redefining quality for games of this type, it offers the chance to build a real system in terms of story where everyone can truly pave their own adventure and see all the options. In future I actually think this needs to be more than a one off videogame mechanic and be a major part of greater choice games, even with the knowledge of the reaction to your choices you still have the tough call of the route you go down.
Could you imagine playing a less linear Telltale game with this mechanic, while I doubt they would go to the extent of other games it would really add to the experience. They could ensue the game had real choice and consequence, because that is Telltale’s biggest problem once you realize that you are just playing an interactive story and that all choices are pointless you really lose all point. With the rewind mechanic they could easily create a new format to make ensure real choices have to be made and you can use the option to see all possible dialogue. Of course this idea would not really work for playing Telltale’s licensed works, but should they ever make an original game this would make for the ultimate adventure (as long as the story is good).
Overall Life is Strange’s rewind mechanic is pure brilliance, and as such really is the big redefining feature of its genre. If developers decided to follow suit on the very design that Life is Strange put in place a greater potential for storytelling and player variation could be put in place. This in turn would define the game as a personal journey for the player and really put the power in our hands to make an even tougher decision. DONTNOD were geniuses when they came up with this feature for their game, it really made Life is Strange that much better of an experience, and right now this seems like the next natural direction for the expansion of storytelling.